Britain and Japan sign defense deals amid growing concern over China – The Diplomat

focal points | Security | East Asia

The mutual access agreement – Japan’s first with a European nation – allows the two countries to hold joint military exercises.

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Britain and Japan’s leaders will sign a defense deal on Wednesday that could see troops deployed to each other’s countries.

The two countries are strengthening military ties amid growing concerns about China’s increasing military clout and plans against Taiwan, which it considers a breakaway province.

The UK government said the defense deal “cemented our commitment to the Indo-Pacific” region. It is to be signed by Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and British leader Rishi Sunak during a meeting in the iconic setting of the Tower of London.

The deal has been in the works for years and was being discussed when Kishida Sunak’s predecessor visited Boris Johnson in London in May. The mutual access agreement – Japan’s first with a European nation – allows the two countries to hold joint military exercises.

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The British government said it would allow the armed forces of the two Group of Seven countries “to plan and conduct larger and more complex military exercises and operations”.

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It reflects a new “Indo-Pacific tilt” in UK foreign policy following the country’s exit from the European Union in 2020. Britain sees Japan as its most important East Asian ally.

“In this increasingly competitive world, it is more important than ever that democratic societies continue to stand shoulder to shoulder as we meet the unprecedented global challenges of our time,” Sunak said.

The two leaders met at the Tower of London, a 1,000-year-old former palace and prison that houses the Crown Jewels. Sunak’s office said they will see Japanese armor presented to King James by Shogun Tokugawa Hidetada of Japan in 1613 on the occasion of the first ever trade agreement between England and Japan.

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Japan has joined Western nations in condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and imposing sanctions on Moscow. Japan has also provided Ukraine with helmets and other non-lethal military aid.

Japan is concerned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could have repercussions in East Asia, where China’s military has grown increasingly assertive and threatened to unite with Taiwan by force if necessary.

Concerned about rapid arms advances in China and North Korea, Japan passed key security and defense reforms in December, including a counter-strike capability that breaks with the principle of pure self-defense it has maintained since its defeat in World War II.

Japan chairs the G-7 this year, and Kishida is on a week-long trip to visit allies including Italy, France, Canada and the United States, where he will meet President Joe Biden at the White House on Friday.